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Medicare Essentials 101

Medicare Essentials 101

When to register and what type of health care insurance to take is a crucial part for you. To make your decision making easy, we brought to you some Medicare essentials that might help you out.

  • Medicare is divided into parts. Part A, which pays for hospital services, is free if either you or your spouse paid Medicare payroll taxes for at least ten years. (People who aren’t eligible for free Part A can pay a monthly premium of several hundred dollars.) Part B covers doctor visits and outpatient services, and it comes with a monthly price tag — for most people in 2013, that monthly cost is $104.90. Part D, which covers prescription drug costs, also has a monthly charge that varies depending on which plan you choose; the average Part D premium is $30 a month. In addition to premium costs, you’ll also be subject to co-payments, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. Part C is just a combination of A and B.
  • You are eligible for Medicare when you turn 65.
    If you are already taking Social Security benefits, you will be automatically enrolled in Parts A and B. You can choose to turn down Part B, since it has a monthly cost; if you keep it, the cost will be deducted from Social Security if you already claimed benefits.
    For those who have not started Social Security, you will have to sign yourself up for Parts A and B, or Medicare Advantage. The seven-month initial enrollment period begins three months before the month you turn 65 and ends three months after your birthday month. To ensure coverage starts by the time you turn 65, sign up in the first three months.
    People still working may want to delay signing up for Medicare, but they will need to follow the rules carefully to avoid significant penalties when they do eventually enroll.
  • In addition to the seven-month initial enrollment period, there are other enrollment periods. If you missed signing up for Part B during that initial enrollment period and you aren’t working, you can sign up for Part B during the general enrollment period that runs from January 1 to March 31 and coverage will begin on July 1. But you will have to pay a 10% penalty for life for each 12-month period you delay in signing up for Part B. Those who are still working, though, can sign up later without penalty during a special enrollment period, which lasts for eight months after you stop working (regardless of whether you have retiree health benefits or COBRA). If you miss your special enrollment period, you will need to wait to the general enrollment period to sign up. Open enrollment, which runs from October 15 to December 7 every year, allows you to change Part D plans or Medicare Advantage plans for the following year, if you choose to do so. (People can now change Medicare Advantage plans outside of open enrollment if they switch into a plan given a five-star quality rating by the government.)

There are so many things you have to learn about your Medicare. Knowing is the key for you to make use of your Medicare efficiently.

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